The Great Ethereal Kingdom (2)
pure region of Lower Elixir Field, transparent and still, is always the
mysterious land across which many saints ascended infinite emptiness. At
the beginning of their long distant journey heading to omniscience, they
purged away grossness resolutely from their obscured heart in this pure
region which serves as a furnace---this making up a permanent approach employed
by all practitioners who are engaged in pursuit of Tao, ever since man's
first time of transcending all limitations Nature imposes upon existence.
To reap the fulfilling fruits of long-term hardship, to transcend material
limitations and release from transient life-time to eternity---as an eternal
aspiration of humankind---you must at first temper your worldly heart to
cleanse of all desires and passions, in this magic land.
On one hand, this region is next door to the suffering region---also called the region of covetousness---on other hand, far away from the latter that is the place where man's desires and passions of all sorts are born and prevail.
Some saints, like Sakyamuni, Lao Tzi, Zhuang Tzi, and so forth, could, in a very snatch, reduce the space separating the two above-said regions, although they are very far away from each other, from the viewpoint of existence. The boundless sea of Lower Elixir Field exists like a handful of water, pure, limpid and clear. It is a great blessing descending upon the man who can recognize it and advances toward it despite all formidable difficulties.
When we talk about man's nature, a prefix "pre-heaven" often serves as an adjective to define it, other than a word "constitutional," What is the reason you may ask? Because general description gives it a meaning in part concerning emotions rather than exploring its original formation that is free from the contamination of desires and emotions.
At the very instant of Great Transformation, and before the myriad of things acquire respective shapes, man's pre-heaven nature is pure and virginal. Nothing exists to interfere with it and nothing to induce it to take diverging path.
With no origin to explore, with no end to divine, man's pre-heaven nature exists primitively. After the annihilation of all things this survives, and before the existence of all things this first came into being. No great thinker could possibly guess where it is, because it exists beyond range of man's thinking ability, and in what form it presents itself, for it lies beyond the range of the time and space. Wearing away all thoughts you could not detect its existence, meanwhile driving all ideas to all quarters of reasoning realm you could not catch sight of its shape. Also, no circumference exists to mark out it, and no interior and exterior to form it. Man's pre-heaven nature endures solitarily.
Yang pre-heaven mind-will services as an incontestable proprietor of pre-heaven nature, while acquired mind-will is always intertwining with passions and desires.
pre-heaven mind-will is sure to be darkened as soon as you assume a human form which comprises blood and flesh and skeleton. The less your pre-heaven nature is shadowed, the easier you can awaken it. Within the range of existence one thing's coming into form signifies, at the same time and in all possibilities, its destruction at the end. So does the birth at beginning denote death at last. Yes, the termination of Great Creation is the very beginning of transformations and changes.
The continuous succession of passions reproducing passions and desires proliferating desires persists perpetually in this profane world, which, in fact, is a mesh net woven from passions and desires---one thread interweaving with another like floating dust chasing after each other in a amorphous chaos. Where the boundary is we could not know and where its bottom is we could not tell.
On the contrary, pre-heaven mind-will blends with nothing, sequesters itself from the confusion, thus lasting magnanimously. Based upon preceding theory, we can conclude that man's pre-heaven nature, at the first beginning of Great Creation, possesses neither bias nor prejudices.
Great is man's heart, nothing but its operations constitutes the warp and weft of all changes and transformations, and nothing but its proper influence affords us the power as that of God and Almighty. All the time do ideas and thoughts leap and gallop to pursue its fickle and ever-changing routes, nothing existing to temper its advancing momentum with something hindering, and nothing enduring to contain its moving sphere with something hampering. How and when can we reach the summit of soaring up and getting the truth in no time and commanding all the view of the common origin of all things in an instant, though we never exert ourselves to do anything?
Yet only impassioned eloquence and exaggeration was left almost next to nothing in the remote remembrance, enough to illustrate how far and how quickly our mind-will dashes about in the domain of our heart. Inconceivably, the changes and transformations evolve as time elapses. To think of tender cheek becoming gaunt just in a breath, and of dark hair becoming gray during so short a period from cradle to grave! What we are at present and what we were in the past?
Can you calculate exactly how long have you lived in the world, and what you exactly have been when the idea of pending passing away occurs in the mind? As the result of unmercifully revolution, the form becoming thin and thready thoughts exhausted, while the procession of ever-lasting changes continues with no ending. For hundreds of thousands years who could be the exception? Where is the passionate feelings between men and women, and the attachment between parents and their offspring when legs stretch and breathing gradually draws away?
Great saints, however, know the very cause of the catastrophe lies but in human's heart. So, casting off the consideration of birth and death, discarding the myriad of things in connections with them like a transient bubble, they magnanimously remain eternal, and, without leaving a trace, they drift deeper and deeper in a profound stillness. Therefore, Great saints, restoring all pre-heaven mind-will and thus returning to infinite emptiness, exists without a parallel among numberless persons in the material world.
Concentrating mind-will in the Lower Elixir Field, great saints performed silent exercise solitarily and unswervingly, while all mortal beings---gluttonous and covetous in majority as their constitutional nature is concerned---chase after self-imagined vanity and indulge themselves in the amorphous world, with the aim to achieve so-called self-fulfillment. What a comparison!
But where is the way out from this boundless chaos and how to make way onto a golden boulevard leading to eternity? This question has long been distressing many people ever since the beginning of humankind. Yet nobody can give the answer.
Unconscious of all surroundings, oblivious of all stray thoughts, giving up assorted ideas that constantly keep springing out of heart, great saints lighten his load of consciousness and lead a simple contented life, thus attaining the grand summit of omniscience. So, unswervingly purifying you obscured mind-will and clearing away the multitude of "wastes" you acquired ever since your birth, you can perceive the greatness of Tao.
To learn not from assiduous studying but to forget all knowledge accumulated by one generation and another, you, to some extent, shall have a grasp of the secret. Not to see all what you can see and not to hear that you can hear, you get the truth in sight. The so-called knowledge and experience, which generally acquired from feeling and reasoning through accumulation of time, cannot be named real cognition. To achieve without doing anything, to understand without meditation, to have a presentiment with nothing showing any sings, and to forecast future events with no budding thing to give any clues, how great is our true heart!
Being given no birth, Tao comes to existence. With no action having taken, Tao transforms all things endlessly. Great Tao prevails in infinity with no practical outline to shape it and no emptiness to fill it, and no having and having-none existing to describe it. Though we often refer to Tao as if it belongs to the sphere of nonexistence, it fills up the whole world thoroughly. Somebody may claim to being confident of its existence. Yet with both no sounds and no form to present it, where the evidences lie? Giving up all your actions all the day and being keen upon cultivating both pre-heaven nature and life force, you can gradually abandon "worldly dusts" strewn upon your pre-heaven nature and release from the contamination by grim ruins. Yet, too much attention paid upon your stillness signifies, by all means, the collapse of previous success at the end. Therefore, that though you know where it lies you never pay any attention upon it is the best way to fulfil your ultimate object. This way, your destiny will lose its hold over you and all cause and effect cocooning you will by degree break into pieces, as blessings amass little by little for your promising future with the result of your psychical-photosphere being lightened and later, its brilliant rays filling up the infinite emptiness.
At first, myriad of thoughts occur to your mind and lead to confusion. Some time later, gratuitous ideas decrease in number and your heart assumes stillness in degrees, then later, you mind-will seems to abandon its grossness and posses anew its ethereal nature, then at last you can prophesy like God proposes. Zhu Tzi, a distinguished philosopher in ancient Chinese history, studied his obtuse theory in half-day's time, and cultivated his mind-will in another half, thus peaceful stillness of his heart guaranteeing his pre-heaven nature reappearing brilliantly. Though mobilizing your mind-will in the sphere of existence, you aim at attaining the infinite emptiness at the end. So, there came the saying of the best general commanding the heart of all warriors, rather than their movements.
When weed proliferates unrestrictedly, how could crop seedlings grow luxuriantly in a fertile arable land? Here we compare passions and desires to weed, on account of its evil effect exerted upon the pre-heaven nature. Restoring your pre-heaven mind-will and polishing your pre-heaven nature you can "unearth" your true self, and restore its virginal brilliance. Conversely, giving way to passions and desires other than cultivating pre-heaven nature, and always ready to gratify greediness of organs which resulting in rooting out crop seedlings in stead of weed, you will always place yourself at the mercy of your destinies. As a result, wildness will spread all over the rich land of your pre-heaven nature---very much to be unworthy of the fertility of the farmland.
"Whenever things arise, I greet them with my pre-heaven nature, not in the least with my worldly heart," said Guan Yee Tzu, a great Tao priest in Tang Dynasty. The reasons leading to this conclusion lies in that pre-heaven nature exerts its strength just only before the time when the heart busies itself with the action of continuously producing various ideas and thoughts. In the profundity of stillness, and when your reasoning function not at all works on anything, the real truth---ever-lasting and unchangeable---will subject to your command and control. Your springing wisdom will fly high up and wild freely, your minds will become clear like an azure firmament. At last, your true self will emerge and primitive simplicity unearthed, thus ultimately restoring your pre-heaven nature---you are capable of transcending all limitations of existence ever since then.
Heaven exists with no intention to make transformations and changes. Earth endures with no purpose to produce all things. So, man should pursue its distant course to Tao with no ideas and thoughts. Heart, as an endless resource, is always blamed for bringing about all distresses and bitterness in the region of existence. So a real practitioner constantly keeps aloof from worldly considerations, pursues its course with an indomitable spirit, and maintains his original pure character, while being oblivious of all things taken place, and forgetful of his existence, thus achieving ultimate state of communing with Tao. Great is the influence of changes and transformations regarding its power of enslaving the existence. Yet nothing is its capacity to employ the nonexistence.
Miraculously, yin and yang triumph over each other to bring about evolution of all things. But they will become powerless in dealing with a man who gives up all cognition and slides deeper and deeper in the most profound stillness.
In this case, who can assert I have a heart when I have deserted all acquired ideas and knowledge? how can the Five Elements exert its influence upon me? And how can the Yin and Yang affect me while they hold the reins of all existence? When the causes and effects of all things perish utterly and the broad expanse of sea of passions and desires calm down and plunges into profound stillness, what is visionary and what is real? Having restored my pre-heaven nature to infinite emptiness therein nothing exists to take a form and to wait for my pre-heaven nature to fill up it, I am the celestial saint myself!
From the very beginning, how many times deaths and births have descended in turn upon my destinies! And how many times I have encountered torment and killings ever since the immemorial time! And how many distresses I have experienced! In one time, I was a male, a female; in another time I was either well-to-do or destitute. So fickle is my destiny as to reach the a present stage of my lifetime, where is the way out and how can I break away from the endless mortal bondage?
In view of this, the manual is compiled with the aim to tell some secret methods passed on to disciples by lots of saints accomplished in pursuit of Tao, by which you can escape from the fathomless abyss and come ashore the region of blessings. It is in this boundless and infinite suffering sea that the merciless waves surge and devour all things, and just in the ever-changing vicissitudes, the seeds sown during previous life-time bear fruits in present one. With assorted causes left in present one, retribution is bound to recoil upon next life-time, and so recycling continues without end.
Heaven and Earth have to be born and destined to perish someday, let along a tiny person who is only a product of them. So gloomy is our mood in entertaining the idea that you don't know how many people have had to shed tears for this grim doom.
When pre-heaven and constitutional nature become pure and virginal, Te will play its full role in man's heart. Te is what the existence receives from Tao. To exist without cause to exist, to be nonexistent without any causes to be nonexistent, pre-heaven nature possesses nothing that belongs to existence, and nothing to nonexistence. Having neither birth nor death and with neither coming nor going, Tao fills up the emptiness, solitarily and motionlessly. So, there comes the difference of thoughts always coming in and going out while pre-heaven mind-will not at all. Perpetually has this circumstance been persisting ever since the immemorial time, and not in the least differed on account of peculiarity of even one certain thing.
You will be whimsical enough whenever you make an effort to give a form to embody your pre-heaven nature, or give a name to classify it which has neither front nor back, and neither beginning nor end. Ever since the pre-heaven nature came into being the circumstance has always been the same.
Ethereally does the nature remain perpetual and keep shining over the infinite emptiness ever since you have thoroughly gotten rid of your worldly heart.
In the antiquity, pre-heaven nature has always been compared to water of a boundless ocean, which in one time vaporizes and soars up, and in another time descends and returns to sea again. So does the human kind---coming out of nonexistence and returning to it. Man's pre-heaven nature, however, has been shackled and cocooned by form, though originally pure and free from any hindrance.
All men have a same heart in its pre-heavenness, which has the same function as that of Tao, then why do people stubbornly and keep founding one school after another and erect fences to enclose themselves with no end?
Doing away with all ideas and thoughts, rooting out all desires and passions, oblivious of your existence, you can easily cleanse the intrinsic world. Then it will become more and more spacious, and be less affected by worldly things, even though the region of covetousness always seems to be in riotous profusion. Keeping aloft with all dazzling visions of this material world, and secluding yourself from all desires and passions, you will make your pre-heaven nature towers imposingly without any prejudices and bias.
Man always has willingness to cleanse mind and calm down heart in case of heart being full of distresses, yet the heart never assumes peacefulness. Why? Because fame and interests are always winding round it and the worldly dust is constantly soaring high up wildly and seeming to shadow all things.
The net of Heaven has large meshes, but it lets nothing through. Even the minutest details of deeds you committed during your ignorant life-time will always have its corresponding recordings. Oh, books---telling the way out---enough to fill the roof and cause cows to perspire before the cart, are getting dusted and decayed as though to be mocking at the multitude of men who cocoon themselves in the immense net and encase themselves with so-called pleasure and transient blessings.
All is vanity. Changes and transformations are invariably taking place in profusion which no man can prophesy. Would it be good enough to behave like a hermit in a hut situated in deep forest and seldom haunted by people, with mind-wind never giving rise to face things, all stray ideas and thoughts constantly being cleared away and the heart, always dashing outwardly, staying motionless? Perhaps, we are not certain whether we smell the dainty cuisine, or casually get sight of good looks or hear moving sounds, but our heart is tranquilized and remain free from any contamination, and have nothing to do with all sounds and pretty looks.
The man, whose wisdom and talents are based on much solid foundation---never mingle with acquired wisdom and knowledge---is capable of having an instant insight of infinite emptiness that is the noumenon of existence, and not in the least spares any attention upon twigs and boughs.